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A Tour for Literature Lovers: Israel’s Literary Sites

Posted by Gil Travel on Apr 24, 2019 9:36:00 AM

A Tour for Literature Lovers Israel’s Literary Sites

Israel boasts a great number of world-renowned authors and a Nobel laureate, and Israelis are among the world’s most voracious readers. Visiting the literary spots is the way to learn about a country and its people in a fascinating manner. You won’t learn about one author only, but about the numerous minds who gathered to this location from across the world, and about the immense relevance of Israeli writers, who’ve not only reflected history in their celebrated works but shaped the country’s culture and national identity.

Beit Agnon, Jerusalem

Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1887-1970) was the central figure of Modern Hebrew literature and the 1966 Nobel Prize laureate. Born in the Galician town of Buchach (today’s Western Ukraine), the young writer arrived in Jaffa, Ottoman Palestine in 1908. His works are as complex as their author, and they deal with great and small ambiguities, including the conflict between traditional Jewish language and life and the modern world.

Beit Agnon (or Agnon House), a beautiful two-story structure in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood, is a National Heritage Site. Agnon and his wife Esther built it in 1931, and the writer spent the rest of his life here. Today, it’s a literary museum that hosts tours, lectures, performances, and workshops, in English and Hebrew, so that visitors can learn about the author’s and his family’s life, about his thoughts and inspirations, and about his enormous body of work – his unique contribution to contemporary Hebrew culture. Agnon wrote many of his famous books in the study on the second floor, which now contains a breathtaking library that holds 8,000 titles, consisting of Biblical, Rabbinic, and modern literature. The house is surrounded by cypress trees and greenery, so take a pleasant walk and rest in the lovely gardens, enjoy its balconies, then read a book in one of the quiet halls. At the museum shop, you can get Agnon’s writings in Hebrew or in translation, many scholarly works, and souvenirs.

Beit Hannah, Kibbutz Sdot Yam

To have a lovely, but also educational day trip, visit Beit Hannah in Kibbutz Sdot Yam. There you’ll witness Israel’s early history through the life and poetry of Hannah Senesh. Senesh was born in Hungary in 1921. However, in 1939, she moved to today’s Israel to study in Nahalal, and she joined Sdot Yam in 1941. Senesh is considered a national heroine who, in 1944, as a Special Operations Executive paratrooper, volunteered for a rescue mission to save Hungarian Jews about to be deported to Auschwitz. She was parachuted by the British Army into Yugoslavia, but was captured on the Hungarian border, tortured, and executed by firing squad in Budapest at the age of 23.

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Her body of poetry is modest, but beautiful and well-known in Israel, and the poet is remembered through it. Already in 1950, the members of Sdot Yam established Beit Hannah – a Culture Center founded in the memory of the authoress and the thirty-six other paratroopers sent to Hungary. It consists of a memorial hall with an audio-visual presentation about Senesh’s life, a study center for children, an archive, a display of the poetess’s literary legacy, and the Kibbutz library. The Hannah Senesh Legacy Foundation is a non-profit organization founded to preserve the memory of Hannah and her comrades. Its establishment was initiated by the Senesh family, members of Kibbutz Sdot Yam, and public sentiment.

Beit Bialik, Tel Aviv

Chaim Nachman Bialik (1873–1934) is Israel’s national poet who wrote his work in Hebrew, that way significantly contributing to the revival of the Hebrew language and creation of Modern Hebrew poetry and prose. Thanks to his innovations, Hebrew literature was able to, for the first time, convey complex settings, actions, states, but also a poetic voice of a living, multifaceted person, full of paradoxes, emotions, doubt, and torment. Bialik worked tirelessly for public causes and Jewish literature his entire life. He was born in the Russian Empire and as a celebrated writer moved to Tel Aviv in 1924, where he built a house on a street that was named after him in his lifetime. He quickly became a central figure in the public and cultural life of the entire country, and his beautiful home became the city’s primary literary landmark, with many young poets and curious fans stopping by for a visit. But all that attention proved too much for Bialik and he soon moved out. The house was swiftly converted into a cultural center. The Bialik House is now a museum with a fantastic interior in the Arts and Crafts movement style. It is also famous for its architectural beauty and style that combines European and Oriental elements. On Bialik Street, you’ll see some of the city’s oldest houses, unique architecture, the old City Hall, which is now the Museum of History of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the Bauhaus Foundation Museum, the Felicja Blumental Music Center and Library, and much more.

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Topics: Israel Travel